Oswalt and Pence each received a healthy ovation from the fans who bothered to show up to watch a Houston team that entered the night with the worst record in the majors. The folks who did turn out covered less than half of the lower bowl of seating at the cozy ballpark (the announced paid attendance was 22,231).
Neither player saw much that he recognized in the place they used to call home. Pence, who was traded to the Phillies on July 29, never started a game with half of the regulars the Astros fielded. Humberto Quintero and Carlos Lee were the only participants who used to play with him or Oswalt on a regular basis, not including pitching coach and former Astros reliever Doug Brocail, who played with both of them in 2008 and '09.
"I probably played with him more than anybody," Oswalt said. "Everybody else is pretty new."
The irony, of course, is that the Astros actually managed to win a game, tallying their 50th victory while handing the Phillies their 50th loss. Oswalt allowed five earned runs in seven innings, although two of them came thanks to defensive miscues.
Both of those runs were scored in the fourth inning, when Raul Ibanez misjudged a routine fly to put runners on the corners with one out. During the next at-bat, Jimmy Rollins and Pete Orr converged on a grounder up the middle and ended up colliding.
Although the miscues were ruled singles by the official scorer, both are plays the Phillies usually make, which means that in normal circumstances, Oswalt would have been out of an inning that started with a leadoff double by J.D. Martinez. Instead, the Astros scored two runs, the second coming on a double by Quintero that gave them a 2-1 lead.
"They bother me a lot," manager Charlie Manuel said of the miscues. "That's kind of what led to us losing. I think they played a big role. I thought we played very sloppy."
Oswalt's biggest mistake came in the fifth, when he hung a curveball to Lee, who dispatched it into the seats in leftfield for a two-run homer that gave the Astros a 4-1 lead. Houston added another run in the seventh, which proved to be more than enough to hand the Phillies their second straight loss.
The Phillies were unable to generate much offense against former teammate Brett Myers (5-13), who allowed six hits and one walk with four strikeouts in eight innings. Their only run came in the second inning, when Ibanez led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by Orr.
Pence, who finished 2-for-4, had the only other extra-base hit off of Myers, a double in the first. Oswalt, who had two walks, two strikeouts and hit a batter, fell to 7-9 with a 3.88 ERA.
The Phillies have lost 10 of the last 12 games they have played against the Astros after the All-Star break the last 3 years, including a four-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park last August and a four-game sweep at Minute Maid Park in August 2009. Myers, a former first-round draft pick and top-of-the-rotation starter who never reached his potential in Philadelphia, logged his third straight quality start against the Phillies since leaving the organization after the 2009 season.
"Actually, when you get right down to it, we got outplayed," Manuel said. "We definitely got outplayed."
The Phillies, who fell to 94-50, could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory due to the Cardinals' 6-5 loss to the Pirates. Now, they can clinch with either a victory or a Cardinals loss.
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